Looking at Fresh Contenders in the Preakness
The field for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) is set and the race only hours away. The contenders have dwindled since the first weekend in May at Churchill Downs. From a field of 19 for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the runners now number nine for the Preakness.
Among those nine though, are a few fresh horses—those that skipped the Derby for a visit to Pimlico Race Course and a shot at the Woodlawn Vase instead.
Departing, winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. III), will leave the gate from post 4 for owners Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. Of the Preakness newcomers, the War Front colt trained by Al Stall Jr. will be one of the bigger threats to heavy favorite, Derby champion Orb .
His 3 1/4-length victory in the Illinois Derby (his last start on April 20) and 4-0-1 record from his five starts bolster his chances for success in the Preakness. It would be little surprise if his current third choice odds of 11-1 saw a bit more movement by post time.
D. Wayne Lukas-trained Titletown Five is the longest shot in the field with odds now at 23-1. Finishing fourth his in his last start April 27 in the one-mile Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, it's questionable whether he can handle the 1 3/16-mile distance in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
The Tiznow colt broke his maiden at Churchill with a nine-length victory at seven furlongs and hasn't seen much success when stretched out. In his longest race, the 1 1/8 mile Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 30, Titletown Five bobbled at the break and ended up finishing ninth behind fellow Preakness contenders Mylute and Departing.
The final fresh starter for the Preakness is Govenor Charlie, currently at odds of 11-1 for owners Michael Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. His last start March 24 was a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Sunland Derby (gr. III) in track-record time. He drew clear over the fast Sunland Park oval for a five-length victory, bringing his record to 2-1-0 from his three starts.
Riding the son of Midnight Lute will be Martin Garcia, who piloted the colt in all of his previous starts for trainer Bob Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner. Govenor Charlie doesn't have many races under his belt, but he could be the wild card in the field and might add some value to an exotic bet this afternoon.
Skipping the Derby can certainly give a contender an edge. In the last 50 years of Triple Crown, more than one Preakness winner has opted to chase black-eyed Susans rather than run for the roses. Seven horses have won the Preakness after missing the Derby, most recently Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
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